Cover Image: Welcome Me to the Kingdom

Welcome Me to the Kingdom

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Member Reviews

This sounded like it would be such an interesting story of identity and people but I found it hard to get into it. I may give it another chance at a later date, but for now it was a book that didn’t work for me.

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I wanted to like this collection a lot more than I actually did. I love interconnected short stories, books about Thai history and culture, and queer/dark/gritty themes, but I just never really felt moved or compelled by any of these stories and ultimately found them forgettable. I'd like to read a full novel by Mai Nardone because he's clearly a talented writer, but these stories didn't quite hit.

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First off, the cover is stunning. Now that that's settled, Welcome Me to the Kingdom by Mai Nardone is a strong debut of interwoven stories set in Bangkok. It is one to check out for those who might wish to learn more about the rich culture of Thailand through a fictional backdrop.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.

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Overall, I thought these stories were individually each quite good, though overall the book does end up being the same flavor (misery) for every story, which is the pitfall of many collections. I didn't think there was a convincing reason for the stories to be linked, either, as ultimately all it pushed me to do was feel confused about which characters were which and didn't offer much reward for remembering who was who.

3.5/5

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Welcome Me to the Kingdom
By Mai Nardone
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 2.14.2023

Thank you @Randomhouse for a gifted ebook and thank you @PRHaudio for a complimentary audiobook.


I was drawn to this collection of stories primarily because it is set in Thailand. I would love to know more about the culture and history of this beautiful country and I was hoping this book would take me there.

I like the idea of this book, but I just couldn’t get attached to these characters - they felt distant and removed. I never got to know them and that’s hard for a character-driven reader like me. I also got lost in the day-to-day dense detail, and then suddenly, a story would stop!

Most of these bleak stories revolved around the underclass, sex clubs, and criminal elements in Bangkok. I understand that this may have been the author’s point, to show this dark side of the city, but I walked away confused about what exactly I was to take away from it.

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Refreshing to read a book about Thailand. However, it does not feel like a cohesive whole. I really wanted to like it but...alas...it was not for me.

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It is so rare to find novels and creative fiction that is not only set in Southeast Asia, but written by Southeast Asian authors (rare, not impossible!) that when I saw this coming out in 2023 I JUMPED on it! And I am so glad I did. This is a book that makes my heart sing!

Nardone’s Welcome Me to the Kingdom is a novel woven in stories, revolving around the lives of Thais who live in Thailand or beyond in the diaspora, transnational and transcultural Thais. This is a book about people, individuals as they navigate the multiethnic and multicultural world of Thailand, and what it means to be Thai for them. The characters, as diverse as they are in terms of ethnicity, class, and gender, are connected together in this novel; they and their lives serve as a microcosmic diorama of Thai realities where muslims of the south grapple with discrimination, poverty stricken girls from the village migrate to the city, mixed race Thai/White kids straddle two worlds and belong not quite fully into either one.

The stories span across several decades and generations, allowing the reader a view, not only into modern Thainess, but also how the concept has changed over time and the ways in which being Thai is differently defined for individuals of different religions, classes, genders, etc. Language is a significant element in these stories, not surprisingly since Thailand (like so many other parts of Southeast Asia) has and remains affected by colonialism and its invasive culture (though it was never politically colonized). Welcome Me to the Kingdom is about the rubbing together of cultures, the tension and chafing as multiple perspectives collide. This is a historical novel offering readers a textured, multi-faceted sense of contemporary Thailand, a place in which tradition and modernity coexist, sometimes contentiously, sometimes not.

My favorite characters were Nam and Lara, their story, interwoven with Pea’s and Rick’s, was my favorite, though I probably identified most with Ping. I think readers will find a little bit of themselves in these pages, whether they are Thai or not, as the emotion driving these stories is universal. Nardome’s stories are about desire, ambition, longing, and fear — that inevitable friction between parents and children, within families, the old(er) and new(er) attempting to find common ground.

For readers who enjoy anthropology, history, and postcolonial literature, Welcome Me to the Kingdom will be an especially enjoyable read.

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This is honestly a pretty fantastic debut collection. I'm also a huge sucker for short story collections that end up linked together, whether it's telling the story of a community in Bangkok and all the ways their individual lives end up crossing over in a generational sort of way. The individual stories are also pretty fantastic and can stand on their own, but the fact that they're linked elevates it for me. Nardone is a great writer, and definitely one I'll be keeping an eye on in the future!

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Thank you to NetGalley, Mai Nardone, and Random House for the ARC.

I enjoyed reading this collection. I can't say that it is a page turner, but not all books have to be. I look forward to reading more from Mai Nardone in the future.

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"Welcome Me to the Kingdom" is a stunning debut novel, whose immersive setting brings the story to life in vivid detail. I have never read a book set in Thailand, and this book gave me key insight that led to me wanting to know more and more.

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I thought Welcome Me to the Kingdom was fantastic. I found the stories totally engrossing and enjoyed the jump to the different time periods. The characters really grabbed me and were very well written. Nam and Lara and Benz and his crew were all such strong individual characters. The stories were heartbreaking at times, especially TinTin, The Bangkok setting was eye-opening and occasionally brutal. I really got sucked into this author's writing style, it really flows nicely. This is a great book and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Loosely connected stories that follow people trying to make it in various industries in Thailand. The writing is fascinating — flowery and punchy at times. But even with such dramatic and fascinating social matter, I often found myself drifting. I felt like there was something missing — some pieces that would have glued it all together and propelled me along. But it was nice.

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A fascinating and unique collection of linked stories set in one of my favorite places—Thailand—that gives readers an inside look at the multifaceted complexities of Thai society and contemporary history and culture.

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This is a story of 3 families. Mai Nardone weaves these together to tell us as wonderfully immersive story of Bangkok. This is an excellent story woven of the 3 families and was a fun look into another culture that was fun and will get you in the heart.

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I was so profoundly moved by the message and plotline in this article and am seriously so thankful to Random House Publishing Group/Random House, NetGalley, and Mai Nardone for granting me access to this magnificent read before it was set to publish to the public. I always appreciate well-done literary fiction, and I definitely count Welcome Me to the Kingdom as a well-done publication.

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What an incredible short story collection. I was so moved by these stories! I can't wait to read more work by this author. I highly recommend this book.

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A concise, intriguing look into the 80s - 2010s Bangkok, something I am well acquainted with. Nardone's prose is sweet and luxurious, and the characters leap off the page. My only wish is that is was more like a novel, since many of the character weave throughout all of the stories.

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This novel, which really flows like a collection of essays in a sense, checks many boxes for what I typically enjoy in a book: an honest look into the good, bad, and ugly of the people's thoughts and lives. However, there wasn't a whole lot of good going on for any of these characters, which made the book quite depressing. The narrative felt honest and not overly done - not like the author was just trying create shock value. It felt fairly authentic, and I can appreciate that even while not thoroughly enjoying it. I also do not know much about Thailand or the financial crisis the country suffered, and I am not sure that you really have to know much about it to get value from the book, although the characters' lives are profoundly impacted by the crisis.

I am giving the book three stars because I do appreciate what the author has done here, although some redeeming moments would have been nice for the characters. I also really love the cover of this book - that is probably my very favorite thing about it!

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I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was not this. The book is a set of short stories that span several decades and three families, but I had a hard time keeping track of whose story I was reading and how it connected with the other stories. It took me a few stories to realize that some of the characters in one story were in another story, but because the stories kept jumping from one family to another and from one time period to another, I had a hard time trying to figure out the connections that I think were definitely there. The stories were also in many cases depressing and tragic and I had a hard time making myself come back to the book time and time again. The book covers many serious topics, including colonialism, sex workers, sex trafficking, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty, cults, child abuse, domestic abuse, orphans, class disparities, corruption, and so much more. I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but I had a hard time finding any of the characters compelling, perhaps because they would show up and disappear only to reappear later. While the themes were very clear and focused, the stories of the characters felt all over the place.

Overall, I appreciate what the book was trying to do, but the execution just didn't do it for me.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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I absolutely loved Mai Nardone's "Welcome Me to the Kingdom." An anthology novel with short stories that connect to each other, each chapter brings to life another year and another moment in time of the lives of ordinary people. These people, whom Nardone has chosen to feature, are all interwoven and connected in some way, but it is only throughout time and experience that brings them together.

Meticulously and brilliantly written, "Welcome Me to the Kingdom" is a collection of short stories, yet also a novel of one story. I highly enjoyed it and recommend it to all.

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